Terms for Plastic Film and Fabric The following terms are often used when talking about plastic film and fabrics:
LDPE: Short for low-density polyethylene. LDPE is a very thin plastic film that is usually clear and can be stretched. It's typically used for newspaper bags, bubble wrap, and stretch wrap. Because LDPE isn't often used as a wrap for food products, it is recycled in many places.
HDPE: Short for high-density polyethylene. HDPE is a little bit thicker than LDPE, and it isn't clear. It's most often found in plastic grocery bags. HDPE cannot be stretched like LDPE, and it often breaks easily. Again, since this material is not used to store food, it is usually recycled.
Polyester: Abbreviated as PES, polyester can be used as both a film and fabric. As a film, it is often used for packing and protection. For example, many computer and television monitors are covered with a thin layer of polyester film for protection during shipping. When used as a fabric, polyester can be woven with other natural fibers, creating clothing that is highly wrinkle resistant.
Cellophane: An ultra thin plastic film that is made from cellulose. Because cellophane is almost impermeable to germs and bacteria, it's often used to wrap and store food. You can often find cellophane wrapping some of your favorite cookies and crackers at the grocery stores. Cellophane is not recyclable because it is used to store food.
PVC: It's technical name is polyvinyl chloride, but PVC is better known by its abbreviation. As a film, PVC is often used as plastic wraps for storing food, such as the ever-popular Saran Wrap. However, there is some concern about the safety of PVC when using it to store food.